Monday, June 3, 2013

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake will always make me think of my best friend, Val.  (Strawberry shortcake the dessert, that is.  Strawberry Shortcake the cartoon makes me think of my sister who I think had the entire collection of dolls when we were kids. But I digress.)  Anyway, every year when strawberry season hit, Val would hit the market and buy up kilos upon kilos of strawberries.  (We live in Europe.  We use kilos here.)  Then she'd get home, wash and slice and bag the berries in her immaculate kitchen.  

The rest of the year, anytime I had dinner at her place, it was at least a 50/50 shot we were having strawberry shortcake for dessert.  Which, if you think about it, is pretty smart.  All she had to do was pull a bag of strawberries out of the freezer, stir up a quick batch of shortcake, and whip some cream.  Pretty easy and quick, for a homemade and delicious dessert.

Now I know there are some people who buy those little bowl-shaped spongy cake things they sell near the strawberries and grab a tub of Cool-Whip and call it good.  But you do not have to succumb to the madness.  The shortcake in this recipe took me an entire 15 minutes to make, start to finish. TOTALLY doable.

AND... this recipe is from the 1956 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, so you know it's legit.  Crumbly, buttery, nothing fancy or fiddly, not too sweet, the shortcake is the perfect foil against the sweet-tart berries and creamy whipped topping (if you still want to grab a tub of Cool-Whip instead of whipping cream, I won't tell.)

Super simple.  Impressive-looking.  Delicious.  You may just want to go to the market and fill your freezer with strawberries, just so you can have strawberry shortcake all year long.  Just like Val.

The Step-By-Step

Make the Shortcake 

Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

Next, use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut in the butter/shortening.

The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.  Like this.

Add the milk to the beaten eggs, and mix together in a small bowl.  Stir this liquid mixture into the dry mixture.  Form into dough.

 Flour your countertop and throw the dough on there.  Divide the dough into two balls.

Get out two cake pans.  Mine are 9 inch pans.  The recipe calls for 8 1/2 inch pans.  We're going with 9 inch.   

Pat out each ball of dough so it's evenly in the pans.  I did not grease these pans at all, but they are non-stick and the dough itself was floured.  I had no problem at all getting the baked shortcakes out.

This seems like a really small amount of dough, and it seemed to me to be really thin when I patted it out, but it turned out perfectly -- any thicker and the shortcake would have overpowered the berries.  I guess you can trust the Better Homes and Gardens recipe-makers.

Bake in a hot oven (425F or 220C) for about 10-15 minutes.  These took ten minutes, but it might take a couple minutes longer if you're using the smaller pans.

Prepare the Berries and Cream

Now wash and hull your strawberries.  I like to leave them whole.  My friend Val always sliced the berries.  Better Homes and Gardens leaves them whole.  I guess that settles it.  Sorry, Val.  Love you.

Throw a good handful of sugar on the berries - depending on how sweet or tart your berries are, and how sweet you like them.  Stir it up, let it soak in.

Let's just assume you aren't using Cool-Whip.  So now you whip your cream, and sweeten it a little.  Get it nice and stiff, so it can hold it's own with the berries.  

Now put your cream and your berries in the fridge until it's time for dessert.  Or don't bother if you just can't stand it and need to eat some NOW.  Not that I know anyone like that. (hem.)

Just before it's time to serve, layer the shortcakes, cream and berries.  On the top layer you can get all fancy if you want and arrange the berries artfully.  Or just toss 'em on there. 

Some people like doing the individual sized portions, but I just think this looks so amazing and glorious -- in one big crowning finale to your meal, don't you?

Now,  does this look awesome or what?  Don't you want some - right the heck now?  Well, go get a bunch of strawberries while you can.  Fill up your freezer.  Impress your family/guests/self.  

Hey, Val - want to have dinner at my place?  Guess what's for dessert.....

The Recipe  

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk

Whipped Cream:
About 1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream (that amount is the liquid, before being whipped)
Powdered sugar to taste

About 5 cups of strawberries
Sugar to taste

For the shortcake, mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Cut in the butter or shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Mix the egg and milk, then add the liquid to the dry.  Stir until the dough is just moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into two parts, and pat each part evenly into 8 1/2 inch round pans. 
Bake 425F (220C) for 10-15 minutes.

Wash and hull the strawberries. Sweeten with sugar to taste.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Sweeten with powdered sugar to taste.

Just before you want to serve, layer the shortcakes, cream and berries.